Hiring

Offer of employment

Introduction

Having now identified the candidates who have successfully completed your recruitment process and have demonstrated that they meet your selection criteria you will now be able to enter the hiring phase.

This can be a lengthy process as there is a lot to do and it is so important to get it right. You should aim to make this final part of the candidate journey as smooth as possible and build on your candidate experience so far. Your prospective employee now has the exciting prospect of realising their aspiration to work in the Fire & Rescue sector. This is a real opportunity to build engagement and make sure they start their career with your Service with enthusiasm and positivity, being able to tell others about the great candidate journey they experienced.

In the following sections we will walk you through the complex and often time-consuming phase of the ‘hiring’ process.

Make sure you clearly communicate with your candidates about the expected timings required for this phase. You want them to be clear from the outset and know exactly what they need to do from their side to help the process run smoothly. This will avoid any unnecessary anxiety on their side that things are not progressing or that there is a potential problem.

You should also advise them not to give notice to any existing employer to terminate their employment until all the pre-employment checks are satisfactorily completed and an unconditional offer provided and accepted by them.

Offers

Verbal Offers

In accordance with employment law, an employment contract could potentially begin as soon as someone accepts a job offer, even if that offer was verbal. It is therefore important, if this is not your intention, to always ensure you use the correct terminology when contacting a candidate by phone, being explicit that the offer being made is a ‘conditional offer of employment dependent on the successful completion of all pre-employment checks’.

Conditional Offers

A conditional offer of employment will be subject to the satisfactory pre-employment checks being completed in line with policy. Your pre-employment checks should be accurately recorded in your Recruitment Policy.

Unconditional Offers

Once all pre-employment checks have been satisfactorily completed, an unconditional offer can then be made and the employment contract sent to the candidate for them to sign. This is a legally binding contract and is usually subject to the successful completion of a Probation Period

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Appointment Letter Template (modifiable for Wholetime Firefighter)

Pre-employment checks

Carrying out pre-employment checks, or ‘vetting’ a candidate, is an important part of the recruitment process whereby your Service can confirm that a candidate meets the specified criteria to work in your service. Checks must be appropriate and proportionate to the role you are recruiting for and must not be discriminatory or unreasonable.

Please also refer to Firefighter Essentials section in Step One, in ‘Defining the role’ that provides some additional information that relates to this section.

  1. Right to work check

Right to Work Checks are mandatory, and your service needs to undertake them to assure legal compliance as below:

‘’All employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working. You do this by conducting simple right to work checks before you employ someone, to make sure the individual is not disqualified from carrying out the work in question by reason of their immigration status.’’ (Ref: Gov.uk; accessed Jan 2022)

Useful links are provided below: (accessed 2022)

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  1. Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS) 

Completing a DBS check will help your service to make safer recruitment decisions for potential future employees. The level of check must be appropriate and proportionate and in line with the criteria set by DBS.

There are three levels of checks; basic, standard, and enhanced. A basic DBS check can be used for any position or purpose; however, a standard or enhanced check should only be used when higher level checks are required for example when working with vulnerable adults and/or children.

Firefighters will need to consent to complete a basic level DBS check, however, this will change should their role diversify into areas of work that involves vulnerable adults and / or children. Risk assessments and guidance through DBS will determine the appropriate and proportionate level of check to be undertaken.

Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS) Update Service

The DBS update service helps to ensure that your service is kept up to date on any additions to an employee’s initial DBS check. An annual fee is applicable. This approach is likely to be more applicable to roles which are subject to an enhanced check and/or carries a high level of organisational risk if the person employed becomes unsuitable owing to a development on their criminal record.

Further information is available here:

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Gov.uk, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/disclosure-and-barring-service  (Accessed 2022)

Information received on a disclosure should be processed in a proportionate manner and an assessment made on whether the criminal conviction(s) would make employment within a specific role, such as being a Firefighter, inappropriate. Reference should also be made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Your service should also have a specific policy for the recruitment of ex-offenders, which should clearly set out the Service’s approach to recruiting and employing people who have criminal convictions.

  1. Qualification checks

If your job advert and/or person specification states that a specific qualification(s) is required, it would be reasonable and expected that the candidate can provide evidence of this qualification prior to commencing in role. In some instances, it may be necessary to establish an equivalent level of qualification to that stipulated to avoid any potential for claims of discrimination.

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Further information for this can be found at https://www.gov.uk/what-different-qualification-levels-mean  (accessed 2022)

  1. Medical checks/questionnaires 

Medical checks should only be carried out with successful candidates. This may or may not include a drug and alcohol substance misuse test, dependent upon your service policy. It is usual that the service’s occupational health provider would issue and review the data and report back to the service with any comments based on their professional medical training.

  1. References

References are traditionally sought once an offer of employment has been made. It can be a useful way to obtain information from your successful job applicant’s current employer(s). Employers are not obliged to provide a reference (unless for certain financial positions), but if they do then they are under a duty of care to ensure that the reference is factual and accurate. Job references are sought with the successful applicant’s permission; they will need to supply the referee’s contact details to you, and should have sought permission in advance of supplying their details to you.

  1. Driver Licence Checks 

Certain roles within your service may require the post holder to drive company vehicles and, on this basis, you will need to conduct a driver licence check to meet the terms of your insurance policy. This check can be undertaken online with an access code from the applicant.

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  1. Eligibility checks

These are required for apprenticeships (16+, not already in full-time education, already accessed funding at same level) to ensure that applicants meet the eligibility criteria.

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  1. Baseline Personnel Security Standard Check (BPSS) 

The Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) is the standard pre-employment screening for employees working in government departments and includes a verification of four elements:

  • Identity
  • Nationality and Immigration Status
  • Employment history (past 3 years)
  • Criminal Records (Unspent only)

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Further information is available through Gov.UK at Government baseline personnel security standard – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)  (accessed 2022)

  1. National Security Vetting 

Some especially sensitive jobs will require security vetting. There are 3 levels of vetting: 1) Counter Terrorist Check (CTC) for people working at high-risk sites or requiring close proximity to certain public figures, 2) Security Check (SC) for people who work with secret information, 3) Developed Vetting (DV) for people who work with top secret information.

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Further information is available through Gov.UK at National security vetting: advice for people who are being vetted – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) (accessed 2022)

  1.  Social Media Checks 

Social Media checks should be carried out with caution and advice is that ‘’employers should avoid conducting such checks and should not make recruitment decisions based on the information found.’’ (Ref: Xpert HR, accessed 2021)

Professional social media checks can, however, reduce any potential risk to your service brand and reputation and can identify negative behaviours such as bullying, racism, bad language or membership of any groups that may be deemed inappropriate.

New employees will be subject to the terms of your Social Media Policy and should be aware of the subject matter within and apply them accordingly. New employees should be asked to sign the policy, confirming that they have read, understood, and will abide by the terms within. This signed declaration should be kept on record to protect the service should any contraventions occur, and performance or disciplinary actions then need to be pursued.

Outsourcing Pre-employment checks

Since pre-employment checks can be time consuming to complete you may want to consider if outsourcing this function to one of the specialist companies who offer this service is an option. Whilst there is a fee involved, and this will require budget approval, there are some real benefits to using an outsourced service. We have listed some Pros and Cons below for you to read as a starting point, in case your Service is considering this approach.

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  • Reduced turnaround times and a reduction in the associated risk of losing candidates to any alternative offers of employment from other services also recruiting at the same time
  • Efficiency – specialist providers can focus solely on the screening process and will more likely use advanced technologies and a dedicated team. Again, this can help reduce your time from a conditional offer to an unconditional offer and the candidate’s start date
  • Compliance and consistency are enabled since for the external provider this is their core business and sole focus
  • Using an external provider can reduce any potential for bias occurring since checks are undertaken by a neutral external provider
  • The expertise of the provider’s knowledge and understanding is maximised by you and any issues can be escalated as per your contract for swift resolution
  • Less administration time and training are required for service staff currently responsible for providing this function. Lower costs and better value for money could therefore be achieved since the service will no longer be responsible for training costs (particularly if there is a high turnover of staff) and maintenance of skills. It will also free up administration time within the Recruitment Team to perform other tasks.
  • By outsourcing to a specialist provider there is an added level of legal protection for the service should candidates challenge decision-making resulting from pre-employment check outcomes.
  • Outsourcing provides additional resilience for this final stage of recruitment which can be particularly advantageous for high volume Firefighter recruitment campaigns.

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  • Outsourcing this function will require budget planning and agreement during the ‘Prepare to Recruit’ stage adhering to procurement protocols before appointing a supplier
  • Outsourcing will require a procurement process to appoint which will require resource and time to manage.
  • Outsourcing costs would be offset against the service’s internal resources being stretched during high volume recruitment campaigns when overtime or additional flexitime may be accrued may otherwise be necessary; or potentially agency staff being used to provide additional capacity to the Recruitment Team.
  • Finding the right outsourced supplier will require time and resource
  • By outsourcing pre-employment checks, these will now be out of the direct control of the service and therefore, potentially subject to supplier issues beyond the service’s control or influence (such as sickness absence for example).

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Verbal and written contract

An employment contract is an agreement that sets out an employee’s:

  • employment conditions
  • rights
  • responsibilities
  • duties

These are called the ‘terms’ of the contract. A contract of employment is legally binding and both employees and employers must stick to a contract until it ends. This will happen when either the employer or employee give notice; if an employee is dismissed; the terms are changed by agreement between the employee and employer.

Before an employee commences with your service, you must provide them with written terms that explain their pay, working hours and their other rights and responsibilities (written statement of particulars).   This can be provided in the form of a written statement, a contract of employment or as a letter of engagement.

ONLINE RESOURCES

ACAS provide a full list of what must be included which can be found online here: https://www.acas.org.uk/what-must-be-written-in-an-employment-contract/what-the-written-terms-must-include (accessed 2022)

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Other useful links:

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Miscellaneous

1. Withdrawing an offer of employment

Earlier on in this step we talked about the pre-employment checks that need to be actioned following a conditional offer of employment and how these need to be satisfactory before an unconditional offer is issued.

When these pre-employment checks prove to be unsatisfactory or if the conditions set out in the terms of employment are not met then it will be necessary to formally withdraw your offer of employment, clearly setting out the reasons for the withdrawal.

However, should the offer be unconditional then this may not be so simple to do since a candidate’s employment is deemed to have started on a contractual basis at the point they accepted the unconditional offer. In these circumstances, it is imperative that the service can demonstrate the basis for the withdrawal is not discriminatory by clearly setting out the basis for the decision to withdraw the offer of employment, as per their Recruitment Policy.

The risk of not getting this right and being subsequently challenged can potentially end in an employment tribunal which can be costly in both terms of Service resources and reputation.

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ACAS provides additional information online here: https://www.acas.org.uk/if-your-job-offer-is-withdrawn (accessed 2022)

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2. Probation 

A probation period is usually around 6 months but can run for up to 12 months. It is basically a trial period at the commencement of a new recruit’s employment with your Service. At the end of a probation period, outcomes can range from confirmation of completion, an extension to the probation period or dismissal.

Your Probation Policy will clearly set out what is required during this probation period and will include the review dates/timescales. The policy will also link to the specific forms that need to be completed by the line manager and the new employee and where these forms need to be sent for filing.

For a Development Firefighter, their employment with your service is likely to begin with a Basic Skills Course alongside other induction activities such as Corporate Induction Days. Your policy should clearly set out who is responsible for the Probation Reviews that need to take place whilst recruits are attending training and when the responsibility for probation commences with the Watch Managers.

Anyone responsible for conducting probation reviews and submitting the paperwork should be appropriately trained and understand their role and responsibilities during this important phase. They should also be clear on what to do should someone appear to not be performing to the required standard and how and when to escalate.

When performance issues are not brought to the attention of a new recruit and are not appropriately addressed with reasonable support, there is a risk to the Service that in the future a longer and more lengthy process will be needed to address poor performance, potentially resulting in dismissal.

If there is cause for concern about a new employee’s performance. It is much better, therefore, for both the new recruit and the Service, that issues identified in the Probation Period are addressed in a timely manner. If there is a subsequent need to dismiss, this can then be actioned fairly and reasonably in accordance with the service’s Probation Procedure.

During the probation period a new employee can be dismissed with little or no notice if they’re found to be unsuitable for the role. Once a new employee successfully passes probation, the Service should confirm this in writing, and clearly explain any changes that may occur as a result.

3. Pensions

Comprehensive information relating to pensions should always be sought from the pension provider’s Pension Administrator, drawing upon their extensive experience and subject matter expertise.

The information below is intended, therefore, only to provide some general areas to be mindful of and is in no way intended to take the place of specific professional pensions advice.

It is good practice to ask all new employees in receipt of a pension, to ensure that any existing pension rules will not be breached and seek advice from their pension provider if they are unsure.

Protected Pension Age (PPA)

Taking a pension and / or lump sum before normal pension age will result in a tax charge unless retiring on the grounds of ill health.  The rules around this must be monitored when employing or re-employing someone who is in receipt of their pension. Ensuring that there are no breaches to pension terms should be explicitly communicated by the service, making it clear that any associated penalties for a breach will be the sole responsibility of the individual.

Loss of Protected Pension Age (PPA)

A protected pension age can be lost if the person does not comply with certain rules on or after retirement.  If a person is re-employed by a sponsoring employer or by a body or person connected to a sponsoring employer, the person may lose their PPA and become subject to tax charges which the individual (and not the service) will be liable for paying.

Abatement

Abatement refers to the suspension of pension payments.  On employment / re-employment, to ensure abatement rules are not breached, the employee is only able to earn the same amount in their new role (plus pension) as they used to earn in their old role.  The hours of work may need to be adjusted to ensure abatement rules are not breached.  If an employee in receipt of a pension receives a pay rise, their pay must be checked to ensure a breach has not occurred. Any conditions that are applicable for a gap between the termination of one employment contract and the individual’s re-employment must be observed to avoid the potential for financial penalties/ tax liability.

Again, the individual should seek and obtain their own advice from their pension provider before commencing with a planned abatement.

If measures are not implemented correctly, a breach would need to be formally reported to the Pensions Regulator. The service and the employee may also be liable for a tax charge and financial penalties imposed in addition to the repayment of overpaid pension. For a breach of Loss of Protected Pension Age, the penalty alone is up to 70% of the commuted lump sum the employee received on retirement. Getting it right is therefore of the utmost importance.

List of legal obligations (not exhaustive)

  • Employment Rights Act 1996
  • Employment Act 2002
  • Data Protection Act 2018
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2016/679 EU)
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • The Local Government and Housing Act 1989, as amended by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009
  • The Local Government Act 1972
  • National Joint Council

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Data & GDPR

Retention of personal data (GDPR)  

Personal data should not be kept for longer than is required. Under the General Data Protection Regulations, the recommended retention period for applicant data is six months. Following employment, it increases to six years. Abiding by these retention periods will ensure that any potential Employment Tribunal Claims can be responded to within the specified timeframe.

It’s good practice to include information about your timescales for the retention of personal data (collected during your application and recruitment process) within your candidate information, so that applicants are clear about the data you are holding on file about them and why.

Further information can be sought on the ICO website, here:

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Subject Access Requests (SAR)

A Subject Access Request allows employees to request and receive a copy of all the personal data that your Service has collected about them. This includes handwritten notes made at an interview, digital documents, emails and any other data files you have. During the interview briefing, it is therefore important to remind interviewers to take care over the notes they make about candidates and be comfortable about these being disclosed if an SAR is submitted.

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New Starters

Introduction

Once the unconditional offer of employment has been accepted and a start date agreed, there is an opportunity for you to build engagement with your new starter during their notice period with their current employer. This is covered in the ‘Staying connected’ section.

You will also need to progress with onboarding and plan induction activities, getting your planned approach organised in plenty of time. Development Firefighters will need to be provided with their PPE in advance of their start date on Basic Skills and making sure that sizing appointments and the required stock are organised will be key to success.

Onboarding and Induction

Once the unconditional offer of employment has been accepted and a start date agreed, there is an opportunity for you to build engagement with your new starter during their notice period with their current employer. This is covered in the ‘Staying connected’ section.

You will also need to progress with onboarding and plan induction activities, getting your planned approach organised in plenty of time. Development Firefighters will need to be provided with their PPE in advance of their start date on Basic Skills and making sure that sizing appointments and the required stock are organised will be key to success.

Staying connected

The time between accepting a job offer and starting can be a nervous experience whatever the level they are at. They may feel that they do not have enough knowledge of the service or think about all the new people they have yet to meet, know and work with.

To help alleviate any fears or concerns, organising activities such as pre-course visits, tours of the station and providing ‘Keep in Touch’ comms can be a good solution. Communication can be by email or phone, and you may want to include service e-newsletters, or service updates as well.

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The more prevalent use of online meetings and acceptance of this into day-to-day life during Covid means that these activities can be a mix of virtual and in person, and therefore, costs can be kept low as well.

Good practice examples

Below are some good practice examples for new starters for induction/probation:

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EDI considerations

A reasonable adjustment at work could involve making a change to:

  • the workplace
  • equipment
  • the ways things are done
  • providing information in an accessible format

By law, your service must consider making reasonable adjustments when:

  • they know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability
  • an employee or job applicant with a disability asks for adjustments
  • an employee with a disability is having difficulty with any part of their job
  • an employee’s absence record, sickness record or delay in returning to work is because of or linked to their disability

It is also necessary to make reasonable adjustments for anything linked to an employee’s disability. For example, if an employer does not allow an assistance dog in the building for a partially sighted person, it’s likely to be discrimination.

To help you with making an informed decision, you may choose to get an Occupational Health assessment from your service provider to assist you in removing or reducing disadvantage related to an employee’s disability when doing their job.

Recommendations may include, for example:

  • changing working arrangements, for example the employee’s shift pattern
  • removing something from the workplace, for example bright lights above the employee’s workstation
  • providing something in the workplace, for example an accessible car parking space
  • providing extra or specialised equipment
  • getting someone in to help, for example a sign language interpreter
  • To help see what adjustments are needed, the employer and employee could agree to get an occupational health assessment.
Case Law

As part of the EDI considerations, we have also included a document that collates a collection of case law that we hope will provide insights and information as to how things have gone wrong and where people have sought recompense through litigation.

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Reflection on recruitment process

Introduction

Reflecting on the success of your recruitment process following evaluation and feedback is a worthwhile investment for supporting improvement and gaining insights into your candidate journey. It can provide invaluable information, especially if feedback is framed constructively and provides new ideas for how things are being done.

Feedback should be sought from both internal and external stakeholders such as applicants, interviewers, assessors. This will then help your service to reflect on what worked well and what needs to be improved when amending or developing the recruitment process.

Feedback on your candidate journey

Questionnaires and/or online surveys can be sent to candidates to complete, asking them to comment on their experience of your recruitment process. Online surveys allow the service to benefit from being able to evaluate this data, and then present any trends that have been identified to help drive improvement in the recruitment process.

Some points to consider may include:

  • Feedback is requested from both successful and unsuccessful candidates.
  • Evaluation for every stage of the process is useful. Do this in one questionnaire and segment your questions to aid analysis.
  • Indirect discrimination – be aware of the need for anonymity when wording the questions so that people feel confident to provide their honest feedback.
  • Identify any specific areas you want to evaluate – only ask pertinent questions related to these areas to make the feedback useful and meaningful.
  • Include rating scales for responses e.g., rate from 1 to 5, or alternatives between agree/disagree.
  • Ensure that the data you have collected is analysed and acted upon.
  • Communicate the changes you have made so that stakeholders who contributed their time and energy to complete your survey have some feedback.

Key metrics of evaluation

Identifying the key metrics for how you want to measure the success of your recruitment process is the first step towards effective monitoring. You should aim to use a mixture of assessment measures to allow you to determine the success of your recruitment activities. You may want to consider using the following key metrics for your evaluation.

Speed and Efficiency:

  • Length of time between the opening of the job requisition and the presentation of a qualified candidates for the job
  • Timely hiring manager feedback about the quality of the submitted candidates
  • Monitoring aging job requisitions to identify any problems before they escalate

Quality:

  • Ratio of candidates presented to candidates selected interview
  • The ratio of interviews to job offers
  • The ratio of offers made to candidates that are accepted

Measuring and evaluating the efficiency and quality of your recruitment will help you to demonstrate that any improvements you make in the recruitment process has produced results.

Good practice

Increasing the diversity of fire and rescue services is high on the people agenda in the fire and rescue sector and services are working hard with initiatives in their recruitment to increase the appeal of a career in our sector and remove any perceived or actual barriers to entry.

Diversity is easier to measure than inclusion since inclusion is very much about the behaviours that will ensure potential candidates will feel welcome in your service and will need to be monitored after joining your service. If there is a high drop off rate after appointment for example, this will need to be explored.

Your diversity metrics during your recruitment process will need to be relevant to your local context and the aims of your service to avoid assigning valuable resources to implementing solutions for issues that either are not a problem for you or will not bring about the changes you want and need.

Understanding the local challenges through dialogue with local leaders, members of your communities and your employees, will help you in agreeing and setting meaningful metrics for your service.

Metrics you may wish to consider during recruitment include:

  • Representation – good for identifying groups that are unrepresented in your service and that you wish to attract
  • Applications – a comparison of applicant numbers against the potential applicant pool for your monitored groups will identify areas for targeted attraction campaigns
  • Recruitment process – tracking the drop-off points in your recruitment process for applicants of your monitored groups may inform your support approaches (application, testing and interview for example)
  • Selection – tracking of the final appointment of candidates from monitored groups versus non-monitored groups may highlight a procedural issue or an area for a support intervention

Before introducing any changes, however, you will need to have completed a baseline assessment so you can track and demonstrate progress. Subsequent Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) data analysis will then help you to see your risk areas and opportunities, track your progress in the initiatives you implement, calculate your return on investment and highlight your best value for money initiatives. You will also know where to focus your resources to achieve the greatest impact and be able to demonstrate your commitment to EDI in your service through reporting on your results.

Good practice examples

Examples of good practice, policies and other resources have been provided by many fire and rescue services across the UK in the spirit of sharing learning and resources across the UK fire and rescue sector. We would like to thank all those who have donated their time and resources to assist in the creation of this NFCC Recruitment Hub.

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Other online resources

You may wish to consider looking at The Better Hiring Institute which is a not-for-profit social enterprise driving the development of a modern, agile UK labour market. They work closely with all the major UK industries to drive standardisation, best practice, and digital innovation to reduce hiring times, enable portability, and improve safeguarding. They also have a useful resources section which is available here at Useful Resources – Better Hiring Institute and a guide on how the hiring process needs modernising here at Blueprint – The Better Hiring Institute.

Another organisation focused on recruitment is the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) which is available online here at Home | REC | Recruitment and Employment Confederation. Further information on what they do is provided here at What we do :: The REC. There are legal factsheets available here at Legal factsheets and briefings| Recruitment and Employment Confederation and other resources to support employers here at For employers :: The REC.

Both organisations have opportunities to get involved on their websites.